Remember that time you had to throw something away because there was no replacement part? Or when you had an invention but had no means to make a prototype?
You can print those components now.
Maker North Inc. is Northern Ontario’s first-to-market additive manufacturer. In simpler terms, it means that when they opened, in 2017, they were the first Northern Ontario business to design and manufacture 3D printed products.
“We’re breaking down barriers,” said Maker North founder, Joseph Bertrand. “Before our opening, people had no starting point or road map as to where to even take an idea to the final prototype.”
Since opening, he has helped numerous people get products made and into local and major markets.
“We can take products from idea to marketplace in a very short period of time,” said Bertrand. While 3D printing can seem like something you would have seen on the Jetsons or Star Trek, Bertrand said the process can be simplified by thinking of it as heating bioplastics into a molten liquid in a printer.
“Think of it like a glue gun on steroids that attaches one layer to another,” he explained. “And, in terms of computer technology, it is a program of ones and zeros and up and down and back and forth.”
It is the wave of the future and area youth have been able to benefit from this local resource, as well.
“Students from the Algoma District School Board’s (ADSB) Aerospace Aeronautics program have used our equipment to build rockets for their projects,” he said. He’s also held 3D printing classes for ADSB which Bertrand said is giving them insight into what will be jobs of the future.
In addition to 3D printing and laser cutting services, Maker North offered a small maker space where people could learn the technology. This was halted when COVID-19 struck.
“It put a stop to everything very quickly but then I started to think about how our technology could solve a problem and that’s when the topic of visors and face shields came to be,” he said. “I wanted to help and my first commitment was to Sault Area Hospital (SAH).”
Maker North was able to receive an MDEL – certification of Medical Device Establishment License from the government. The Innovation Centre also assisted with tapping into funding for new 3D equipment specifically used to produce personal protective equipment (PPE).
“We got the approval, the government fast-tracked for it and applied for our own CPIL patent for the Maker North brand,” he said. “Within 45 days, we created 6,000 units.”
Maker North partnered with Ryan’s Innovative, an injection moulding company in Parry Sound, and they were able to punch out the support band and ship them back to them.
“We turned the wheel, big time, on that one,” he said. “We were laser cutting plastic for shields 24 hours a day, seven days a week for 57 days.”
Providing PPE to SAH staff was a great honour to Bertrand.
“When they ordered, they were trusting me enough to help save lives,” he said. He said it was humbling and it fit the mantra he wanted to follow when he opened the business.
“When I started this business, it was to help other people with achieving ideas but, the bottom line was that my mantra was to use the best technology locally to solve local problems and those PPE masks met that vision.”
Along with his wife, Lori who handles bookkeeping responsibilities, Maker North also employs Riley Drover as chief design technician and Ian Ingram as a 3D technician. Both Drover and Ingram are Sault College graduates.
“I’m the catalyst of intentions but they are what runs this business,” he said. “I put together the best team I could. He added that as technicians, they not only design but are also certified to repair equipment and, therefore, a valued resource in the broader 3D community.
For more information on Maker North, including their full list of services, visit makernorth.ca or call 705-450-6045.
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